The successful procedure took place earlier this year with William Hiesinger, MD, Assistant Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery, performing the heart transplant. Stanford surgeons and cardiologists continue to follow the patient closely.
"To date, the patient continues to be doing well at home, has excellent graft function, and never experienced any signs or symptoms of COVID in the post-operative period," said Hiesinger.
Transplant centers routinely screened potential donors for infections, including most recently for COVID-19. Until recently, a donor who tested positive for COVID-19 would not be eligible to donate due to uncertain risks of virus transmission.
"Initially, during the pandemic, if a donor had COVID-19, Stanford was careful to exclude them from being organ donors," said Guenthart, further noting this likely impacted the donor pool that was already in short supply against the high demand for life-saving organs in the United States. They were missing out on potential donor organs.
"We started to rethink our criteria [for donor organs] within the transplant community," said Guenthart. Some transplant centers began accepting COVID-19-positive donor organs where the donor had no active symptoms or had recovered from COVID-19 as a viable option for transplant.
The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) recently updated its summary of evidence for COVID-19 donor evaluation and testing and considerations for organ acceptance from donors with a history of COVID-19.
Recently, new research from the Duke University School of Medicine looked at organ donation from deceased donors who tested positive for COVID-19 appeared to be safe and did not cause virus transmission in the patient receiving the organ.
As the pandemic persisted, Stanford surgeons began to evaluate organs that tested incidentally for COVID-19 in settings where they did not directly die as a result of the virus. They successfully utilized and implanted its first COVID-19 positive in the heart transplant patient.
Still, the transplant community, including Stanford surgeons and procurement specialists, continues to observe careful assessments of both donors and recipients on a case-by-case basis.
"Accepting more organs for transplant means we can provide more hearts for more people while maintaining excellent outcome. Our incredible team ensure patients receive all available options and optimal care," said Hiesinger.
Stanford will continue to be a leader in adopting new strategies and procedures based on the best available current data to increase the donor pool and offer life-saving transplantation to more patients.